Letters to the Editor, ‘Scaremongering from Councillor Carr over Cancer epidemic’
I would like to respond to views recently expressed by Councillor Michael Carr in the local press, in which he states that Newry and Mourne is in the grip of a cancer epidemic caused by the Sellafield nuclear power station.
Councillor Carr makes this statement based on the incidence of cancer patients and cancer related deaths recorded over a period from 2001 to 2010, comparing the BT 34 postcode area to the BT23 and BT25 areas.
While these numbers are factually correct as the data was provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, it highlights our responsibility to provide better health education, awareness and early detection to our community.
Instead, Councillor Carr concludes that Sellafield is responsible for the increase in cancer incidence in the BT 34 area without any scientific back-up. What scientific evidence does he have to state, “I am convinced we are eating, drinking or breathing this disease into our bodies”.
His comments not only unfairly put fear into our community but also have the potential to be detrimental to our local economy, discouraging visitors and causing many locals to seek to leave the area.
Equally, consumers may become reluctant to purchase local produce from our fishermen and farmers, while locals might be afraid to drink local tap water. Instead of scare mongering, a responsible councillor for the area should be proactively advocating the importance of early detection and cancer awareness.
As Councillor Carr stated, “the biggest single killer was lung cancer’ in the BT 34 area. Therefore, it is paramount we educate our community with scientific facts, such as that nine out of ten incidences of lung cancer are due to smoking.
We should be encouraging young people to refrain from smoking and providing support to help active smokers to quit. At the end of Councillor Carr’s statement is a comment from the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry that the statistics provided do not take into account population size or ages.
Therefore, if the population is greater in other areas, or if the age is higher on average, this could account for the apparent disproportionate incidence of cancer in the BT34 postcode area.
Here are some relevant facts. Five years after quitting the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker.
Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years (A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet 2010 and Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk after Quitting Smoking – 2007).
Ten years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Finally, as this is prostate cancer awareness month, I would encourage our local community to be aware of the importance of early detection and a healthy lifestyle.
Please get your annual check-up with your local GP and speak openly about any concerns you might have regarding any changes to your health.
Councillor Mick Murphy, Sinn Féin
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